INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 9, 2007
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Ganassi duo aiming for series title
2. Season Preview: Target Chip Ganassi Racing
3. ESPN2 to preview 2007 IndyCar Series season
4. Mo'sGold inks deal with Indy Pro Series
1. Ganassi duo aiming for series title: After a rejuvenating 2006 season, Target Chip Ganassi Racing is looking for more success in 2007. The team won four races last season with drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, who both return to drive the team's Honda-powered Dallaras.
"We feel that this Target team is in a strong position to contend for the IndyCar Series championship," said Mike Hull, the team's managing director. "We have shown well at tests at Daytona and Homestead but that's not a lot of testing, and like everyone else we're waiting to see what the first race of the season holds to see where we really stand. You just can't make assumptions based on the past. This is a new season and everyone has a clean slate."
Wheldon, who nearly won his second-consecutive IndyCar Series title, hopes to build on his debut season with the team. The Englishman's goals are simple, reclaim his Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series titles from Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr.
"I've been kind of disappointed with my 2006 season because of all the chances we missed," Wheldon said. "We came so close in so many races including the Indy 500 but just didn't quite get it done in the end. You don't want to tie for a championship. You want to win it outright. This year, we'll do everything not to let those opportunities get away from us." Wheldon claimed bookend victories at Homestead-Miami and Chicagoland. He's optimistic that he can visit victory lane more often in 2007 after building chemistry with his Dave Higuera-led crew and engineer Andy Brown. "We know each other a lot better now." Wheldon said. "I'm really eager to get back to Homestead and start the season off. One of the changes that I'm happy about is running the Dallara chassis on road courses this year. I'm more familiar with it, and I feel really confident and comfortable in the car. It'll help in developing my road course driving technique and hopefully will translate with success on the track."
Dixon also enters the season hungry to regain the IndyCar Series title. The 2003 IndyCar Series champion claimed wins at Watkins Glen and Nashville in 2006, but his fourth-place finish in the point standings left him wanting more. "The start of the season kind of snuck up on us pretty quick, but I can't wait," he said. "I think this has been the longest off-season I have ever had so I'm pretty excited and pumped up to get started." Dixon knows he will see familiar competition in his quest for a second title, but knows the championship won't be decided early in the season. "You don't really get a really good idea of where you really are until you get that first race under your belt," Dixon said. "We saw some of the usual suspects at the front, but preseason testing isn't always a good indication and there are bound to be some surprises in the first two races. We have a lot to build on. Last year was a strong year and we're looking to improve on it. Consistency will be the key and capitalizing on every opportunity. It should be a fun year."
2. Indy Pro Series Season Preview: Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Leading up to the season-opening Miami 100 on March 24, we'll preview the teams and drivers that will compete in 2007 for the Indy Pro Series' Firestone Firehawk Cup. Today, is Target Chip Ganassi Racing:
Owner: Chip Ganassi
Drivers: Chris Festa (No. 9), Pablo Perez (No. 10)
Team Manager: Mike Hull
Chief Mechanics: Kevin O'Donnell, Butch Winkle
Overview: Target Chip Ganassi Racing enters Indy Pro Series competition for the first time in 2007, but expectations are high not only within the team, but around the paddock as well. Rival team owners, such as Brian Stewart, whose team has captured the last two Indy Pro Series championships, know that Ganassi's teams have a reputation for excellence and for doing everything 100 percent. The team has brought in several individuals with experience in the Indy Pro Series, including driver Chris Festa, who will entering his third season of competition, and chief mechanic Butch Winkle, who has worked for Roth Racing, Kenn Hardley Racing and Cheever Racing in the past.
Watch For--A Quick Learning Curve: Target Chip Ganassi Racing may be new to the Indy Pro Series, but this team demands excellence. Festa and teammate Pablo Perez were 13th and 14th, respectively, on the road course at the Homestead Open Test and fifth and 12th, respectively, on the oval. Perez, who has never raced on ovals, expects to climb the charts quickly.
Watch For--Maturation: Festa enters his third season in Indy Pro Series competition but is still only 21 years old. In the past three years, he's driven for Bobby Rahal, Sam Schmidt and Eddie Cheever. The move to Ganassi gives him the perspective of one more racing legend as he develops his racing craft.
Watch For--Bonus Tests: Testing rules allow IndyCar Series teams that field teams in the Indy Pro Series to accrue up to five bonus test days. This program could benefit Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon on the IndyCar Series side of the operation while also allowing Festa and Perez an opportunity to test an IndyCar Series car.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Mike Hull, team managing director: "Indy Pro Series testing has gone well for us and it has been positive leading up to the start of the season. It has actually been an eye-opening experience to see the professionalism of the series and their officials. As a first-year IPS team, the level of competition for a spec series has exceeded our expectations and we are just scratching the surface of learning about the Indy Pro Series brand. We have a high degree of respect for those teams that are running at the front. It is apparent that the attention to detail is the difference between first and second. We hope to be among them in the coming months. "Where we are in terms of preparedness and progression in order to run at the front can't really be gauged until this first race at Homestead. A lot of what the series is about is the driver's ability to adapt. Chris Festa and Pablo Perez are the young future stars of open wheel and our intention is to showcase the ability they have."
Chris Festa, driver: "It's great to be back. The new team is really strong. We've been having a lot of fun with the guys. They know what they're doing. We have high expectations for the year. It's going to be a real tough year. We've got a lot of real good drivers coming back, a lot of good drivers coming in, a lot of new teams, so it's going to be a very difficult year. But we're feeling very confident that we're going to be able to go out there and really be competitive. "This is a great opportunity for me as a driver to join a team of this caliber. Chip Ganassi has a great record of success in motorsports and the team always does everything first class. There will be a lot of testing opportunities for a young driver like myself. I can't wait to get out there and compete for race wins and the championship. I think I can be an asset and help my teammate and team to develop the program faster."
3. ESPN2 to preview 2007 IndyCar Series season: ESPN2 will preview the upcoming IndyCar Series season with a one-hour special that will air at 7 p.m. (EDT) on March 16, a week before the March 24 season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Marty Reid, ESPN's IndyCar Series lead announcer, will host the program along with analyst Scott Goodyear. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, driver for Team Penske in the IndyCar Series, will join Reid and Goodyear as co-host. ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will televise all 17 IndyCar Series races this season. The opening event will air in primetime at 8 p.m. (EDT) on March 24.
4. Mo'sGold inks deal with Indy Pro Series: Mo'sGold has signed a three-year contract to be the official polish of the Indy Pro Series and will award $5,000 to the chief mechanic of the championship-winning team. The deal also includes sponsorship of the Mo'sGold Tech Pad and supplying Indy Pro Series teams with product. "It's a privilege to gain the approval of the Indy Pro Series as their official polish," said Joe Mobley, president of Mo'sGold.
"We're long-time fans and supporters of the series, and this will give us the opportunity to make more of a difference both on and off the track." Mo'sGold was specifically formulated and named for Mo Larsen, a chief mechanic for Brian Stewart Racing, to keep the race cars looking brilliant and moving fast. Mo'sGold has proven to help prevent surface grime buildup and to repel dirt and rubber, saving time while maintaining a race car shine on any vehicle's surface on and off the track. The company sponsored a $5,000 Chief Mechanic Award last year for the first time. Information about Mo'sGold will be available at Indy Pro Series events in the IndyCar Series merchandise store and can also be found at www.mosgold.com. Special discounts are offered to members of the INDY DownForce fan club.
The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 5 p.m. (EDT) on March 28 by ESPN2 ESPN2 also will preview the upcoming season of the IndyCar Series with a one-hour special that will air at 7 p.m. (EDT) March 16.